A CBD Law firm that would earn only $20 per hour for the work they put into advanced wills with testamentary discretionary trusts.

A regional firm that would earn only $17.78 per hour for the work they put into a Sale of Business Agreement.

A national survey of 412 law firms which was sponsored by Smarter Drafter, legal automation company, has uncovered Australia’s poorest lawyers in terms of the effective hourly charge rates for legal work compared to their peers.

In the survey, lawyers reported on the range of fees they would charge for services, and the time they would take to deliver on these services.

The survey was prompted by the prevalence of fixed-fees for legal services and to understand its impact.

Dividing the fees that lawyers charge by the hours required to deliver that service, has led to some surprising results, including the effective hourly rates of $20 and $17.78.

Australia’s poorest lawyers struggle with both efficiency and marketing.

Adam Long, Chief Evangelist of Smarter Drafter (the survey’s sponsor) said: “Many lawyers have switched to fixed fees and struggle to explain their value to clients, who insist on negotiating lower fees. I think lawyers would be quite surprised to work out their equivalent hourly rate once they add up all the time it takes to deliver the work.”

The survey also found that firms that adopted legal automation were netting historically high equivalent hourly rates, up to $1,000 per hour of work. These firms use tools like Smarter Drafter to get behind-the-scenes work done in minutes, instead of hours and days.

One CBD firm reported a net income of $916 per hour of work on estate planning, thanks largely to their use of automation. Another firm, based in a regional area, reported earning $750 per hour for providing a non-disclosure agreement to clients.

Adam Long, Chief Evangelist of Smarter Drafter (the survey’s sponsor) said: “Clients are going to continue to demand fixed fees, and over time, competition will drive down these fees. It’s up to the lawyers to differentiate their value up front, and explore automation as a necessary efficiency measure.”